Deft Danish

The boy whose birth haunted both medicos and his family has come a long way in life by bringing laurels home with his unconventional paintings, reports Saima Rashid


First look itself makes Danish an exceptional boy. He may not be dexterous, but child prodigy he is for sure. The 15-year-old boy from Islamabad down in South Kashmir is a challenge to all those, who think—only hands can write, draw. In case of this specially-abled boy, toes are doing what normally hands are supposed do.

Born and brought up handicap didn’t dither him into dependent mode. As he grew up, he learned to use toes to compensate the loss of his missing organs. Today he fascinates the onlookers with his toe artistry. Lately he shocked everyone present in a Srinagar seminar when he began brushing the canvas with his toes. That day, Danish made many feel that physical disability can’t shield skill from shining. Later he brought home a certificate besides a cash award. The award was an addition to his already award kitty. He was bestowed with them after winning many top level drawing competitions besides cricket tournaments.

But before taking prizes home, Danish Shabir Reshi of Shirpora Islamabad was a ‘sight of pity’. Being the eldest among his four siblings, he would sit quietly inside his single-room house. While his mason father was struggling to sustain his family, his mother, Shahzada Akhter was apparently playing the role of Christy Brown’s mother—who supported her disabled son, Brown, later summing up his experience in an essay, The Letter “A”.

“He is my dearest,” says Shahzada, affectionately running fingers in Danish’s hair. “I never make him feel like an odd one. Being a handicap is not his fault. He has all the rights to live like a normal child.”

A Class 8 pass-out, Danish makes his toes to do what hands are supposed to do—eating, washing, dressing, writing… But mostly, it is his toe painting that makes him a wonder boy.

When his mother detected his early signs of genius, she admitted him in a normal school. But as time ticked, she realized that he wasn’t getting a much needed attention there. It was then she admitted Danish in Bijbehara’s Zaba Appa Institute, where his artistic acumen flourished to delight of his mother.

Now after passing his class 8, Danish is now able to study in a normal school.

Back to his birth. Danish’s birth hadn’t only scared doctors, but also haunted his family. He has taken birth without arms besides one of his feet was tilted backwards. Those were big signs of abnormalities. Then Doctors suggested his mother to let them separate all his organs to fix them.

But Shahzada opposed the idea of putting her child under a surgical blade. “I held him tight to my chest,” she recalls. “I felt like they had asked me to let them kill him.” She brought him home, braved trauma, but stayed strong. For the next seven years, she kept yearning, praying and dreaming her son’s normalcy. Danish was like a breathing corpse – numb and frozen.

In 2007, a miracle of sorts happened when a rush of life suddenly appeared in Danish’s paralyzed body. He first crawled. Then, started walking. Shahzada’s prayers were finally answers. The delighted mother then got him books, took him to a normal school without paying heeds to others.

But behind Danish’s grooming, her mother played an instrumental role. She hardly allows him to socialize for the fear of being mocked. In seclusion, she allows her son’s painting to flourish.

“Painting is an expression of my son’s life,” she says. “And who says, only hands can portray life? Look at my son, how beautiful he paints with his toe.” Somehow the mother unwittingly invokes the couplet: Hathon ki lakeeron pe mat ja Ghalib, Naseeb unke bhi hote hain jin ke haath nahi hote.


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